Get Mad. Take a bath. Have a nap.
Barb Stegemann is the Founder of The 7 Virtues – a socially and environmentally conscious clean beauty brand that meets the lifestyle and performance levels of today’s consumers. She talks to 35 Thousand about navigating her brand through the last couple of years and pursuing her obsession to end corruption in the world.
Curious, passionate, unstoppable
My best friend got wounded in Afghanistan by the Taliban while serving there. In the hospital, I promised that I’d take on the mission of peace. But I’m not a brave soldier, so I started writing a book called The Seven Virtues Of A Philosophy Queen, which is now the eighth edition, and it’s empowered women to launch companies and run for office — I realized women own the voting power. I brought the thesis to life and started buying the perfume oils in Afghanistan and tried to get the farmers off illegal poppy, which is used for heroin. So for the following 11 years, we became his biggest orange blossom buyer, and I found that if my supplier was farming orange blossom and rose, the Taliban couldn’t go near him and his family. But then in the last six months or so, all the troops left and people had to evacuate because the Taliban took over.
Today I continue to make clean perfumes which as a social enterprise help rebuild nations and communities all over the world by supporting farmers grow organic, ethical fair trade fragrance oils. Along the way, we’ve been the subject of the award-winning documentary Perfume War, I’ve been chosen as the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada, earned Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and been one of the highest grossing brands that has come out of Dragon’s Den (Canada’s Shark Tank). I use everything I’ve learned to help inspire other people, giving talks around North America at organizations like Facebook, Clinton Global Initiative, and the United Nations.
I work in a state-of-the-art sound studio in my hometown Halifax that we built during the pandemic, so I can continue hosting speaking engagements, providing my retail partners education, managing product development, and all the other important meetings that go into running a business.
You have to be prepared that something is going to go wrong, because in running a business something always pops up. It’s about how you handle it – picking yourself up and making smart choices on how to fix the problem – that keeps you going. I make it a point to swim every day to clear my head, and take an hour long walk with my hot husband.
I launched the perfume out of my garage on International Women’s Day in 2010. And it was shameful — the packaging was awful. The smell was… well, my daughter wouldn’t wear it. Fast forward a few years and we were in some department stores, but then things changed. Gen Z and Millennial kids were becoming the buying power. My Gen X generation was really no longer visiting the stores we were in. And then Hurricane Matthew hit and I went to Haiti [to volunteer]. But we were in bad shape and too far ahead of our time — there was no “Clean at Sephora” back then. I told my friends there about it and one of them told me about the Sephora Accelerate Program. I was like, I’m getting into that program. And then they reached out — I couldn’t believe it. I will always be exclusive to Sephora because they saved me. We really cracked the code on how to make a natural scent in the program because I was around the most incredible mentors. And now, we’re the number one best-selling clean fragrance brand at Sephora.
The DNA of our brand is to help people. And my whole thing is get mad, take a bath, have a nap, and then get mad again. There has to be a way for us to end poverty, end war, and stop going back into this patriarchal cycle of spending billions in bloodshed.
Tuxedo cat, Waldo, a rescue kitty.
I love to make hickory smoked vegan cheese for my friends and have slightly boozie afternoon tea on the weekends (sometimes without the tea). Pre Covid I travelled to the countries we do trade with, and volunteered and taught marketing in Haiti to startups.
Catch up on emails 6 am – 6:30.
Swim laps at the Olympic size pool for 50 minutes at 7:15 am – I get all my ideas here under the water away from all sounds.
Take a long bath and read.
Morning meeting with our team 10 am.
Usually back-to-back virtual calls and often speaking engagements through my agents in LA and Toronto.
Afternoon 45-minute walk with my husband where we can find a break by the lake, holding hands. More head-clearing.
4:30 to 5 pm I make dinner, I love how the sun comes in while I cut the vegetables.
6 pm family supper, we sit around and talk.
7:30 go back and do some catching up on work.
Spend quality time with my hot husband alone.
Watch part of a Netflix show with my husband.
10:00 – 10:30 pm sleep.
It’s actually the same as it was just minus the flights. I used to live out of a suitcase, but when I was home, I was home exactly as I am now, making dinner for my family, spending time with my closest friends in my bubble, working virtually.
It was really hard at first as our 600 stores shut down, all of my speaking engagements were canceled or postponed. However like everything you find the silver lining. You really have to. There is no alternative. My son and I love to train our Sephora stores personally and suddenly we could not cross the border. So we adapted and our son Victor built a state-of-the-art studio and we began to train virtually and saw our sales rise 132%. It gave me the idea that we could actually expand and now we are expanding into Sephora EU in 13 countries this summer.
I also learned to never get back on the hamster wheel. I have a much calmer, more efficient life now and I am going to maintain this.
Nothing keeps me up at night. My head hits the pillow and I have the best sleep. Oh wait, there is one thing that keeps me up at night(!) and that is my hot husband. So hot.
I take cool writing courses. I love the challenge. My first book is now in 8th edition, sold at Sephora with a set of our Vanilla Woods Perfume. I feel it’s time to write another book, but not without learning a few things first. I love to learn new ways to write. I have become obsessed with virtual evening writing classes and I am on my 4th one. This one is memoir writing. Powerful stuff to dig deep. Very cathartic.
My routine that has changed my life literally has become my mantra.
Get Mad. Take a bath. Have a nap.
I would look at a situation that was now beyond my control due to Covid and I would get mad, let it all out, really just express it, talk it out with my husband and team. Then I would take a bath and reflect on it, then I take a nap so my subconscious mind can do the sifting and sorting while I rest and I always wake up with the answers I need and solutions to the issue. Try it. It’s really powerful. And good for you.
Personally, being so grateful that I have time to think and write and read. I never had time like this before and I am not going to waste it. It’s precious. It’s a gift to have this time now. I always see the gift in the situation, likely rooted in our humble beginnings. My sister and I were raised by a single mom on welfare, so we have always been grateful and resourceful.
For our family, I thought a lot about my 80-year-old father who is all alone, his wife has Alzheimer’s and he had periods where he could not even visit her in the home. My in-laws are also 80 and isolated, so I came up with Friday backgammon and Cribbage card game tournaments. They all come over to our house Friday at 4 pm and we all have the most delicious snacks and wine while we play and let our hair down. It’s become a very, very special thing for us all. And sometimes all the kids come over for dinner after. It’s much fun!
I used to have a love/hate relationship with my home province — always wanting to be somewhere more exciting, faster, more cosmopolitan. But I found time to reconnect with people here in my industry and the hate bit is fully washed way. I feel nothing but love, extreme love for my home community. And that’s a blessing, a real gift.
I am!! I was asked to fly to Las Vegas to give a speaking engagement this summer…So I am going. I might bring my husband, we will decide depending on quarantine rules upon returning home by then. I do love it at home, but I have hibernated enough.
Perfume samples for strangers, hand sanitizer, my wallet, glasses cleaner, pen, my Invisalign case, sunglasses, face sunscreen, Fenty lip gloss.
My apple mug that keeps my decaf coffee at the exact same temperature so it never gets cold.
I drink tea in a china teapot in my bath every day.
I listen to jazz and the blues every day. The classics, Pearl Bailey, Billy Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Dina Washington.
Big! I am 5 foot 9 and ¾. I love 3 – 4 inch heels. I love big classic outfits, big glasses, I’m a bit androgynous with a feminine edge so I display that when I give keynote addresses the men in the room find me relatable, but so do the women. That style is crucial, you are judged in the first 4 seconds of a person meeting you. Your style should give comfort to others, but also be a real expression of what you love and who you truly are.
We will have launched more perfumes, but more loudly with videos and songs, and just alternative ways to launch perfume creatively. I will have written another book and our team will be bigger so that I can focus more on time with my hot husband and writing and traveling.
I am obsessed with ending corruption in our world. I am on a mission to really end it. Perhaps not in my lifetime, but it’s worth doing so that children in Haiti don’t have to live in the streets or get taken into the sex trade. This is my priority.
I would reverse the equation. I would have her tell me, “You’re right on track, you stuck to your values, you remain true to your ethics, you are a woman of character and this is your destiny”.
Make Perfume Not War®
Make anything instead of war. I even trademarked it. I believe in this so much.
Take a look at The 7 Virtues website here.